Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Notes on Curation: Conversations with Kansas blog on the international value and ripple effect of mega-exhibitions

Postcards from the Inge, the blog of the William Inge Center of Independence, Kansas, recently interviewed me about my work as co-creator and curatorial adviser of a national exposition of US design in Prague, as well as Editor-in-Chief of PQ MAG, the official newspaper of the 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design and Space in the Czech Republic

Conducted by Amanda White Thietje, this three-part interview with me describes the four-year process of curating and creating a USA national exposition in Prague; the value and international impact of mega-art exhibitions; and my work as editor of an art-based publication in the Czech Republic.

Here are the links to my conversations with the Kansas-based blog on the international value and ripple effect of mega-exhibitions:
  1. Interview – Part 1: "From the Edge"
  2. Interview – Part 2: "Active Searching & The Value of the Prague Quadrennial"
  3. Interview – Part 3: "A Ripple Effect."

This USITT national exhibition has returned from Prague and will be a feature exhibit in Long Beach, Calif. It will be on display March 28 to 31, 2012 at the USITT's 52nd annual Conference & Stage Expo, held at the Long Beach Convention Center (situated in downtown Long Beach, adjacent to the Shoreline Marina and The Pike shopping and entertainment center).

Here is an excerpt from the interview:

AW: What does the PQ mean for Kansas?  That is, how do you feel this international symposium for theatre design can ripple out into the world from when/where it happened?
RG: For me, the real question is: What does Kansas mean for PQ?  If designers in Kansas, Missouri and other parts of the Midwest are not willing to play in an international art environment such as PQ, then they will be seriously left behind the curve.  They might as well be mice trapped in someone else’s art experiment and running in circles.  Exhibitions are a scene and marketplace for reinvention.  The discussions and international projects at PQ raise new questions about the relationship between scenography and performance in dramatic activities, in the art world and in everyday life.  They will impact, over the long haul, the look and feel of the theater productions Kansans see onstage.  They will affect the design curriculums of colleges and universities everywhere.  Because of rapid globalization, they will show up in the blockbuster art shows where Kansans like to party and network.  At PQ, the designer is acknowledged as a creator of the spatial or theatrical event.  The future is increasingly becoming hyper-local and immersive.  The designers of the future will have to provide valuable insights into how, why and where we create new performance environments.  They will determine the shape of theatre architecture to come. What’s the matter with Kansas if it cannot see that the techniques of illusion shape our reality, and not the other way around?
Taking the architectural form of a beat-up performing garage with graffiti of President Barack Obama on the wall (designed by William Bloodgood), "From the Edge" mirrors and re-stages the socio-political issues consuming American performance makers today.  

My volunteer work as part of the curatorial team on this project spanned four years. I also led a series of daily gallery talks (with artistic director Susan Tsu) featuring renowned U.S. directors and designers whose works were exhibited in From the Edge.

The curatorial team that created "From the Edge" recommends that people experience the exhibit more than once while at the Long Beach Conference & Stage Expo, promising the interior collage will be different every time they stop by. Gallery talks at the exhibit will provide an opportunity to learn about the exhbit from those intimately involved in its creation.

Unlike previous USA national exhibits, "From the Edge" wears its impish unconventionality on its sleeve. Designer William Bloodgood’s pavilion is an arrestingly iconic structure — a disheveled old garage space in a grubby section of a city in Nowheresville, USA. With its brick walls, concrete floor, metal trusses, and industrial lighting, the mode is beat-up realist.

With a tongue firmly in cheek, it delivers the hard news: this is how American theater artists irreverently wrestled with art, politics, and imaginative design during the dramatic unraveling of the Aught Decade. The period in consideration coincided with the tumult of a worldwide economic recession and a political transition in the White House — a wrenching reevaluation of core American values that brought about the rise of an African-American as our country’s forty-fourth president.

The 2011 Prague Quadrennial of Performance Design & Space had more than 40,000 visitors during 10 active and inspiring days in June 2011.

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